Archive for February 16, 2009

Another day, another cemetery or 2. And a gas station of petrified wood.

Today was a great day to drive and shoot, although the weather started out gray, it was uncanny how the sun would pop out at the exact moment I would get ready to shoot.

Jesus with Cowboy BootsEvergreen Cemetery

Paris, TX

Yep, what can I say? And it is a great cemetery, to boot. (sorry, had to)

Paris Depot
(bar and restaurant)
1264 S Main St, Paris
Live music and reportedly great food. And a very cool bluegrass club across the street.
Wise County Courthouse
Decatur, TX
After 2 of the 3 previous courthouses had burned, the city fathers apparently got serious and hired J. Riley Gordon to build this pink granite beauty in 1896. The price tag of $110,000 was thought excessive by many at the time, and the officials were not reelected. The building is based on the cruciform plan and the Romanesque Revival architectural style, and often compared to another great Texas courthouse in Waxahachie (also designed by Gordon).
Texaco Petrified Wood Station
100 South US Highway 21/Business 287
Corner of Bus 287 and Hale Avenue
Decatur, TX
Originally a 1927 Texas Tourist Camp, owner E. F. Boydston recognized that money could be made by attracting the motoring road trippers. The restaurant built in 1929 and lodging in the early 30s to accommodate the travelers that stopped to refuel both body and automobile. In 1935 the wood frame station was covered in petrified wood quarried form the area to attract more travelers.
Legend has it that Bonnie and Clyde stayed a few nights at the camp weeks before they were gunned down. Although everyone knew who they were, no one was willing to acknowledge their visit, for fear of their lives.
Boydston’s son worked at his station for 50 years, 7 days a week, never leaving Decatur in his life. Today, it has been restored to it’s 1953 heyday by the Boydston’s granddaughter, Nancy Rosendahl, and husband.
Aurora Cemetery
Cemeterey Road off of Hiway 114
Near Rhome, Texas
Aurora is the home of 1897 account of a alien spacecraft hitting a windmill and the pilot was buried in the cemetery. (It was made into a 1986 movie “Aurora Encounter”). Didn’t find the grave….but the light was great. From the marker:
“This site is also well-known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash, was buried here. “excerpted from Aurora Texas UFO Crash Of 1897 – Myth Or Mystery?

Here is the story as written in 1897 in the April 19 edition of the Dallas Morning News is as follows:
About 6 o’clock this morning the early risers of Aurora were astonished at the sudden appearance of the airship which has been sailing around the country. It was traveling due north and much nearer the earth than before. Evidently some of the machinery was out of order, for it was making a speed of only ten or twelve miles an hour, and gradually settling toward the earth. It sailed over the public square and when it reached the north part of town it collided with the tower of Judge Proctor’s windmill and went into pieces with a terrific explosion, scattering debris over several acres of ground, wrecking the windmill and water tank and destroying the judge’s flower garden. The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one aboard and, while his remains were badly disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world.

Mr. T.J. Weems, the U.S. Army Signal Service officer at this place and an authority on astronomy gives it as his opinion that the pilot was a native of the planet Mars. Papers found on his person — evidently the records of his travels — are written in some unknown hieroglyphics and cannot be deciphered. This ship was too badly wrecked to form any conclusion as to its construction or motive power. It was built of an unknown metal, resembling somewhat a mixture of aluminum and silver, and it must have weighed several tons. The town is today full of people who are viewing the wreckage and gathering specimens of strange metal from the debris. The pilot’s funeral will take place tomorrow.

The article was written by E. E. Haydon who was a part-time reporter for the Morning News. As startling as the news was, no other newspapers in the world ran the story in their paper. News of the incident remained dormant for almost a century (May 24, 1973) when newspapers around the country published the following United Press International account:

“Aurora, Tex. — (UPI) — A grave in a small north Texas cemetery contains the body of an 1897 astronaut who “was not an inhabitant of this world,” according to the International UFO Bureau. The group, which investigates unidentified flying objects, has already initiated legal proceedings to exhume the body and will go to court if necessary to open the grave, director Hayden Hewes said Wednesday.

“After checking the grave with metal detectors and gathering facts for three months, we are certain as we can be at this point [that] he was the pilot of a UFO which reportedly exploded atop a well on Judge J.S. Proctor’s place, April 19, 1897,” Hewes said. ÒHe was not an inhabitant of this world.”

A few days later, another UPI account datelined Aurora quoted a ninety-one-year-old who had been a girl of fifteen in Aurora at the time of the reported incident. She said she “had all but forgotten the incident until it appeared in the newspapers recently.” She said her parents had gone to the sight of the crash, but had refused to take her along. She recalled that the remains of the pilot, “a small man,” had been buried in the Aurora cemetery.
(to read more, please go to  Aurora Texas UFO Crash Of 1897 – Myth Or Mystery? )

February 16, 2009 at 3:51 am Leave a comment

Circus Folks Cemetery with that personal touch!

Time for a another weekend roadtrip, and given the time of the year, south was the best choice. I am in the middle of designing the new Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations book (due out no later than May) and realized that there are a handful of places that the guys didn’t really get good photos of. Armed with that excuse go, I grabbed my camera, hopped in the gas guzzling SUV and meandered to Texas.

Showman’s Rest and Bull Rider’s Reprieve
Mount Olivet Cemetery
Hugo, OK
The first thing you notice when you get out of the car is how great it smells. Seriously.  Near the  Ouachita Mountains and National Forest, the pine trees are abundant.  I didn’t realize that Hugo, Oklahoma was once known as Circus City USA (I thought that was Baraboo, Wisconsin or Gibsonton, Florida…don’t ask me why I think such things…). But apparently there are 2 different shows that headquarter there. (Just down the Kirk Road is the winter homes of the circuses) And the Mount Olivet Cemetary is the final stop when the show can’t go on.

There are elephant trainers, bull riders, ringmasters, champion rodeo cowboys, the original Marlboro Man, and apparently one of the more than 20 little people that was hired by the Brown Shoe Company to be Buster Brown.
Eiffel Tower with Giant Cowboy Hat

Corner of Jefferson Road and South Collegiate Drive
Paris, TX

Tonight I got to revisit the town, the “Second Largest Paris in the World” Eiffel Tower, topped with a red cowboy hat. Originally built in 1993 at 65 feet tall, the cowboy hat was added in response to rival Paris, Tennessee’s 70 foot tower in 1998.

February 16, 2009 at 3:33 am 2 comments

Kathy Ruth Neal, self taught wood carver, 1945-2009

(3 pieces  of Kathy Ruth’s work will on display at the Belger Gallery show “Rare Visions, Detour Art” opening March 6, 2009)
(from the Kansas City Star obituaries)
Kathy Ruth Neal died on Wednesday, February 11, 2009, of leukemia. She was at home with her dear companion of 20 years, Mary Susan Sanders. The night before, her twin sister Louise and brother-in-law Tony Pedroza of Topeka, her daughter Michelle Hooper of Belton, Mo., and her two sweet grandsons Brendan and Andrew Hooper were able to kiss her good-bye.

Kathy Ruth was a self-taught woodcarver of growing renown. Her art pieces have been displayed in many galleries, museums and private collections locally, as well as internationally. Her woodcarvings depict vignettes of American life: events of the day, at the movies, the circus, politics. Some of her art work will be shown at the Belger Gallery in Kansas City in March 2009. Kathy Ruth was born on November 6, 1945 in Oakland, Calif. She was the granddaughter of the silent screen actor Walter Whipple who starred with William S. Hart in the 1916 film “Hell’s Hinges.”

She came to Kansas City in the 1960s when she became a flight attendant for TWA. Flying internationally, she enjoyed the adventure of meeting new people, celebrities, and exploring the world. She stopped flying in the 1970s to raise her daughter Michelle, who was named after the Beatles song. She resumed flying for TWA in the 1980s. Finally, she ended her TWA career in 1989 and made Kansas City her permanent home.

To recuperate after surviving breast cancer in 1993, she went hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Inexplicably, she felt compelled to pick up a stick and carve designs in the wood. This led to a 15-year success story in her woodcarving art. Susan: “Kathy Ruth was the sweetest, bravest, most beautiful spirit. Everyone who knew her felt like smiling.”

In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to the Mary Susan Sanders and Katherine R. Neal Foundation at GKCCF, 1055 Broadway, Suite 130, KCMO 64105. The Sanders and Neal Foundation supports the arts and mental health. Arrangements: Mt. Moriah and Freeman 816-942-2004.

February 16, 2009 at 12:35 am 3 comments

Rev. Seymour Perkins, self-taught artist, 1931-2009

(all photos ©2008-9 Kelly Ludwig, Detour Art, all right reserved)
(On May 10, 2004, I visited Rev. Perkins with the guys from Rare Visions and Hank Lee, owner of San Angel Folk Art in San Antonio, the photos are from that day.)
from the San Antonio Express News

East Side artist Seymour Perkins dies February 10, 2009

By Elaine Ayo – Express-News
For decades, the self-proclaimed Rev. Seymour Perkins brought his own flavor to the corner of South Hackberry and Nevada streets, eliciting both praise and ire from his neighbors as he battled to save his house from city bulldozers.

Perkins, 78, an eccentric self-taught artist who earned a national reputation among collectors of so-called “outsider” art, died Tuesday night at a local hospital, said Carlos Richardson, president of the Denver Heights Neighborhood Association.

It was a reputation almost unnoticed amid the controversies surrounding his house. City officials and some neighbors had called the house a haven for criminal activity and a dangerous, dilapidated building that needed to be torn down.

But supporters of Perkins called it a priceless piece of San Antonio culture that just needed to be cleaned up. Perkins’ case now sits in the 4th Court of Appeals, more than a year after a city board voted to demolish the house.
Its walls had been adorned with paintings and drawings, but these works were lost when the house was damaged in an October (2008) fire. A November 1997 fire destroyed the initial stages of the museum Perkins was dedicating to his slain daughter, Debbie Jo.

In recent interviews, the retired crane operator from East Texas said he started his ministry for prostitutes and drug addicts after Debbie Jo was killed in a drug-related attack in 1994. Shortly before her death, Perkins said the angel Metatron appeared.
“Angels,” the story of Debbie Jo, and other autobiographical bits and pieces mixed with broader statements on race in Perkins’ artwork. He painted portraits of figures real and re-imagined, with subjects ranging from Solomon Coles, the first black graduate of Yale Divinity School, to portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe and Frida Kahlo depicted as African Americans.

“Just his renderings are very skilled and beautiful. Because he’s a character, people tend to dismiss the craft, but he has a very beautiful hand,” Arnold Aprill, a longtime collector of Perkins’ work and an arts educator with the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, said last month. “The fact that the images are kind of visionary and ecstatic and mysterious — that’s fun, it’s interesting.”

Aprill helped organize a Perkins show in Chicago in 2005 after discovering the work through his late partner, playwright Sterling Houston, who lived about a block away from the East Side artist.

“He was just so insightful some of the time and other times I really couldn’t figure out what he was talking about,” Aprill said of Perkins.

For Perkins, painting on canvas “was generally the exception; his strongest work has very much an improvisational feel to it,” said another friend and collector of his work, Paco Felici.

Felici first came across some of Perkins’ wood carvings at an estate sale in Seguin and spent several months tracking him down.
“I asked him if he ever considered painting and he really had not,” said Felici, a visual artist himself and collector of traditional Texas artists as well as the self-taught, so-called “outsider” artists. “I first brought to him some latex house paint and some found wood. I left him to his own devices.”

After trying to sell his work from a stand in front of his house, Perkins ventured out to the Riverwalk and First Friday celebrations at the Blue Star complex in Southtown. There, he met Hank Lee of San Angel Folk Art Gallery, who still sells his work locally.
“I can’t help but think that in time people will recognize the astounding … power behind it and the dizzying variety of subject matter and media that he undertook and how well he did that,” Felici said. “Cast against the backdrop of circumstances of his life, it is no less than astounding.”

February 16, 2009 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

Robert Bruno, architect and sculptor of the Steel House, 1945-2008

Robert Bruno’s Metal Mansion  |  Ransom Canyon, TX
On-going  sculpture/home since 1973
(On April 12 of 2008, I had a great afternoon at the home of Robert Bruno.  This is an excerpt from my blog that day )
I headed to Ransom Canyon to meet the Rare Visions (RVRR) guys and renowned sculptor/architect Robert Bruno for lunch.  After the guys headed on to more Texan attractions, I headed to Robert’s home known as the Metal Mansion.  Woah.  Another one of those “there it is!” moments.  
Robert began his sculptural home in 1973, with a very fluid and organic plan.  Trained as a sculpture, he moved to Lubbock from Mexico to teach at Texas Tech.  A bit dismayed by the flat local landscape, he soon discovered an anomaly at Ransom Canyon. Even as you near the canyon, you can’t truly see it, as it is carved into the flat landscape.  But here you will find a vista with more drama, while keeping all of the incredible vast Texan sky.  This proved to be a perfect setting for his home.
Over the years, the look and structure of Robert’s home has changed dramatically.  Originally intended to be 1 story,  he kept adding on, carving away, adjusting walls, etc.  All of the walls in the home are either welded metal, or original glass/stained glass creations.  All designed to optimize light and his visual experience.  Walls were removed to increase visual vistas, stained glass added to create contrast to the rusted metal (with a subtle nod to his love of catholic iconography and visual language, as well as the old churches of Mexico).  Not limited to expressions in glass and metal, Robert also created a beautiful wooden entry table of fluid lines and delicate grace.  And he does it all himself, setting this home apart from a typical architectural project with other draftsmen and craftsmen contributing.  (unlike another famed architect known for his fluid organic style.
After 35 years of  work, he just moved into his masterpiece last month.  When asked what was the tipping point for the move (thinking it was something structural, mechanical, etc.)  he simply said the his lease was up at his old place.
I spent a way-too-short-few hours visiting with Robert, a most gracious host and kind, creative soul.

(all photos ©2008-9 Kelly Ludwig, Detour Art, all right reserved)
AIArchitect November 2007
Against Interpretation: Robert Bruno’s house of welded steel conjures up many meanings, but it arose without any of them


“For 33 years, Robert Bruno has meticulously designed and built his welded steel house on the edge of a canyon outside of Lubbock, Tex. But, somehow, he’s not sure how many square feet it is (his guess is 2,700) and he can’t explain the influences that have informed his design over these three decades—despite the fact that the house’s otherworldly shape seems tailor-made for free association. A brief jaunt through any design-oriented mind brings you to: an insect’s carapace, an alien spacecraft, M.C. Escher’s hallucinogenic maze-scapes, and perhaps Deconstruction’s ongoing War on the Rectangle. But Bruno isn’t an entomologist, a science fiction writer, or even a Koolhaas/Gehry acolyte. He’s an artist, and not a conceptual one. “This house doesn’t deal with concept at all,” he says. “I’m not trying to have something re-emerge in the guise of my house.”The house hitches itself to no stylistic wagons and has been spontaneously designed and revised over the course of its 33-year construction. “What you’re seeing is 33 years of design, not three months of design and 33 years of labor,” Bruno says. If he would have had to design the house in full initially and then build to this exact standard, “I would feel as if I were working for somebody else,” he says. This is a literal distinction for Bruno. He began the house when he was a young man, age 29. Today he’s 62, and the majority of his years have been spent working on the house; an open film exposure documenting his aesthetic development and intent.Bruno says this type of spontaneous, whimsical design is what creates the aesthetic complexity people crave, missing from most of the built environment around us, and largely absent from the practice of architecture itself. “It isn’t that we’re looking for the silliness of a maze,” he says. “We’re looking at a higher order of complexity.” The crux of the problem: Market realities demand that architects communicate to clients what a project will be before it exists through imperfect, distorting mediums like models. From this point on, Bruno says the scale is manipulated and details are whitewashed in the transition. “Inadvertently, what ends up happening is that the resolution at the model level is potentially quite different from what you would resolve at full scale. I would venture to say that almost all the large buildings we see around us are the replica and the original is the model,” he says.”

February 16, 2009 at 12:06 am Leave a comment


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